Valentine’s Day is not the sole domain of those enveloped in romantic love, though that does seem to be the emphasis. (Notice the numerous advertisements that run for heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, bouquets of roses and dinner reservations for two in the weeks approaching February 14.) But this red-letter day, designated to celebrate love, is fair game for everyone. After all, love takes many forms and evolves in stages across all kinds of relationships – between friends, parents and children, siblings and so on.
Seeking to expand beyond this romantic aspect of Valentine’s Day (but not wanting to exclude it), I decided to treat the library’s online catalog as an oracle and ask her (or him, or them???) to provide some alternative material to use in recognizing this day of love and also to address the varying places the human heart might find itself on the love continuum. So I typed in “heart, states, matters, heal, love and poetry” in the keyword search bar and waited patiently for a response. The answer divined from our cyber sage was a wonderfully varied list of titles that deal with the spiritual, physical and emotional realms of the heart.
Here are a few of the standouts:
“To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings” by John O’Donohue is an exquisite collection of wisdom in the form of blessings that can help readers navigate both quotidian and extraordinary life events (marriage, new job, death, etc.). O’Donohue’s poetic and elegant language gives voice to the sometimes inexplicable feelings that arise in our hearts, providing a salve of both comfort and inspiration. For a taste of his eloquence in penetrating the essence of a heart state, read his blessing “For Courage” and see if your heart is moved in some way.
“The Heart Healers: The Misfits, Mavericks and Rebels Who Created the Greatest Medical Breakthrough of Our Lives” by James S. Forrester, M. D., chronicles the history of cardiac surgery and medicine. Before the 20th century, cardiac disease was a fatal diagnosis because operations on the heart were thought impossible. But then, in 1895, Ludwig Rehn sutured a knife wound in the heart of a living man (who survived), signaling a major turning point in cardiac medicine. From that launch point, Forrester provides a compelling read that covers a string of breakthroughs pioneered by unconventional physician-scientists. The long list of contributions made in the field of cardiology includes the invention of the heart-lung machine; cardiac resuscitation; valve replacements; pacemakers and defibrillators; clot-dissolving therapy; coronary artery bypass graft surgery; balloon angioplasty and stents; heart transplantation; and statin drugs that lower cholesterol levels, all of which have saved and extended countless lives.
“Love Poetry Out Loud: 100 Passionate Poems to Stir the Heart,” edited by Robert Alden Rubin, is a delightful compilation. As the title suggests, a key criterion in his selection process was out loud readability, and he recommends you read the poems aloud to yourself or loved one(s) to fully appreciate them. Old and new poems are included, and they cover the wide-ranging landscapes that love cycles across – seduction, amusement, regret, infatuation, grief, passion, etc. Accurately expressing the complex feelings that arise in the heart is no easy feat, and these powerful poems bridge the gap between two people to create a shared experience of love, in all its permutations.
Happy Valentine’s Day!